#becauseofCJ: Reflection from Brianna '17

Young alumni are continuing to share how they are succeeding after high school in our #becauseofCJ series. Through your gift to the Annual Fund, you make this happen. When you do, more Eagles can soar! Read Brianna’s story below, and consider making your gift today.

Dear CJ Community,

When I look back on my time at CJ, my heart is filled with both love and fond memories, folded in with a lot of hard work and late nights that were eventually worth all of their pain. I think back on the times I walked the halls that were once filled with green and blue lockers and now, two and a half years after graduating, I am beyond grateful.

I first walked through the side door on Washington Street in the Fall of 2013. With nothing but a few grade school friends and my siblings’ reputations preceding me, I was scared to death of being forever known as “Little Gavin”, a trouble-maker, and a “problem” that couldn’t be erased. Nevertheless, I sat myself in my honors classes, kept myself closed off for months, and buried myself deeply in the sense of achievement and the hope that I would be overlooked by those around me. But no one at CJ let me slip through the cracks.

My time at CJ went on and as my home life grew more and more tumultuous, I relied more heavily on the family I built for myself at CJ. Within a matter of weeks into my sophomore year, I found myself in a single parent, low-income household where I had to be a leader and care for my two younger siblings. With this being my home life, I began treasuring my time at CJ more and more every day by coming to school an hour early and leaving an hour after school ended. Chaminade Julienne, without exaggeration, became my home.

In my home built of classrooms and desks were dozens of supportive, loving, caring adult mentors who carried me to and through some of my toughest trials and tribulations. Mornings and afternoons spent having conversations with Ms. Ketch, an encouraging word from Mrs. O’, a detour on my way back to class with Mrs. Saunders, a joke from Mrs. DeLong, a “Hi best friend” to Mrs. Mason, a hug from Mrs. Bonner, and a smile and hopeful conversation from Ms. Ruffolo is what got me through much of my time there. I am forever grateful for those and many more caring adults who impacted me. I will never forget planning dances through Student Council, creating and leading the Red Cross Club, being an Eagle Ambassador, calling alumni through my Student Development Chair role, spirit weeks, football games, Solsberry mission trips, dances, early mornings for Liturgical Choir, snowball fights in the senior lot, and learning the words to the Alma Mater at the pep rallies.

When I wanted to give up on myself and on my dreams, no one at CJ let me. When I didn’t believe in myself, they believed in me. When my tuition was overdue and I couldn’t pay it, CJ did everything they could to help me. When I couldn’t pay for a NHS stole, one of my fellow classmates stepped in and paid for it. When I didn’t want to complete assignments and I thought I was never going to cross the stage at graduation (mostly because of a missing gym credit…), everyone at CJ came together and helped me not only get to graduation, but do so with almost a full ride to the University of Dayton waiting before me.

From the moment I started thinking about what my life would be like after leaving my home, CJ, I thought no further than a typical minimum wage job and no schooling. I did not believe I had any potential to get into any college. Despite my course load of honors and AP classes, high ACT scores, and heavy involvement and leadership, I had no belief in myself.

I will never forget the day in the fall of 2016 when I walked into the Guidance Office and was handed a manila folder with my name written across the top of it. Inside this folder, my guidance counselor had college flyers and scholarship information and she explained to me that no matter what, I was going to make it. That day she handed me a flyer and explained a new scholarship program called “Flyer Promise” at the University of Dayton. After talking me into interviewing and applying, on February 22, 2017, I received a red drawstring bag and acceptance into a program that has altered my life forever. I felt so much gratitude as I sat across from two strangers with my eyes watering and a smile that said it all. This, all because of CJ.

Because of CJ, I made it to college. Because of CJ, I lead on campus. Because of CJ, I am instilled with a deeply rooted respect for those of diverse backgrounds, races, religions, cultures, genders, socioeconomic status, and other assorted identities. I am the person I am because of CJ.

At the age of 20, I have grown from my experiences at CJ. I am now pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology with a minor in Biology. I have served as a PEER Mentor in the Multi-Ethnic Education and Engagement Center, a Tutor-Counselor for UD’s Upward Bound, Researcher in the Psychology Department, Active Minds Co-President, and Chair of UD’s Student Government Association Mental Health Committee. If I had not begun this leadership while at CJ, I would not have the capacity to do it now.

The skills, faith, and family that CJ gifted me with did not leave me when I crossed the graduation stage in May of 2017. I am blessed to go to college with three of my fellow Kairos leaders, to be in a scholarship program with more than 20 of my fellow high school classmates, and to be roommates and live with my best friend from grade school and high school. I am reminded daily of the blessings afforded to me through the deeply rooted love of green and blue.

Gifts and donations made to Chaminade Julienne are what saved and changed the course of my life. If I had gone to another high school, I don’t believe I would have received as much care from teachers as I did from the ones I had at CJ and I wholeheartedly believe I would not be where I am now without them. I am only one of thousands of lives that have been forever changed from walking the halls of CJ and I am forever grateful that I got to be a part of the family. Thank you for helping me, encouraging me, and guiding me to where I am today.

With much love and gratitude,

Brianna Gavin, Class of 2017

Posted October 7, 2019